An ongoing adventure of travel and living while using a wheelchair. Tim has been disabled from birth. Darryl is his father and caregiver who travels with him.
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All content, images, and video copyright 2009,2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 - Darryl, Letty, and Tim Musick
Here's a drink that I've never made before. One of the classics, a Tom Collins is basically gin, lemon juice, and club soda. I make one in that classic way in the video. It's refreshing but could use a little more taste. I add a 1/2 shot of sweet and sour, and that makes a big difference in taste. After filming, Letty added a 1/2 shot of amaretto which made it really good. We're calling her modification an Amy Collins.
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1 1/4 oz - gin 1 oz - lemon juice 4-5 oz - club soda 1/2 oz - sweet and sour mix (optional, add 1/2 oz of amaretto to make it an Amy Collins)
Classic recipe is 94 calories. With sweet and sour, it's 104. Add the amaretto and it's 144.
The day trip to Franklin for brunch was just what I needed to fight the blues of the first day in Nashville. Our theme for this trip is music, so now we'll jump in with both feet. It's 7:00pm and we're at a non-descript office park south of downtown. Looking for a place to park, we see a guy in an empty lot waving frantically at us to park.
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"You going to the Jumpers' show?" "Yep." "That'll be five dollars, park right over there. Y'all have a good time, OK?" Mightly friendly but what comes next is a bit disturbing. Another guy working the lot pulls up and doesn't shut his door quick enough for the first guy's liking. Pretty soon, guy number one is yelling at guy number two. Then both are yelling, then guy one tells guy two he's fired, then pushing and shoving, then a truce is reached and I guess guy number two is still working. "Sorry about that, he's just a bad apple. Y'all enjoy the show," guy number one tells us.
Okay, then. At the other end of the building is 3rd and Lindsley, a small nightclub that you blink and miss. We're here to see the Time Jumpers, a band made of of some of Nashville's biggest names that like to get together each Monday night here, play music together, drink beer, and just have a good time. If' you're there, you get to hang with them and have a good time, too. It's low-key and casual. We're treated to the sight of Vince Gill...a Country Music Hall of Famer and multi-Grammy winner...on stage setting up his own gear. No roadies tonight.
Singer of Riders in the Sky, Ranger Doug Green steps by our table and has a little chat. He poses for the picture above and tells us Dawn Sears...wife of the band's leader, Kenny Sears and one of the best female vocalists anywhere...will not be there tonight because she is starting round two of her chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer. It's a shame it's happening to such a great singer. (Note - sadly, Dawn lost her battle to cancer in 2014 - Ed) I get a CD for Letty so she can get to work getting signatures. Tim and I had met Billy Thomas, Vince Gill's regular drummer, before. He didn't remember me but it came in handy to get him to start the signature fest.
Letty went to work for the rest of the band, me filling in when I could get one easy, and got Sears, Vince Gill, Andy Reese, and Paul Franklin...one of the best steel guitar players around. It's truly an all-start cast and when the swinging starts at 9:00, the place gets rockin'.
Kenny Sears, the leader and head fiddle player, is celebrating a birthday tonight as is Gill's wife, Amy Grant. A cake is cut for Kenny and Amy takes to the stage to belt out a song before giving way to Gill's daughter Jennifer, who also has a great set of those Gill pipes. At the end of the show, a few band members scoot out the back very quickly but the remainder settle in at the bar. Ranger Doug had sung "Put Another Candle on Your Birthday Cake" for Kenny and Amy, which was Sheriff John's song when I was a kid. I went up to him at the bar and thanked him for singing that as it reminded me of those childhood memories. He told me he grew up in Costa Mesa, then sang another Sheriff John song for me at the bar.
It's another day in downtown Nashville in the morning as we battle the bitter cold (34 and dropping) at Broadway Brewhouse. Just a place we wandered past, really, but it turned out they make a very good gumbo. The hot stew, warm dining room, and cool beer seemed to be just what we needed.
After, we head up the street to the Ryman Auditorium for a tour. The Ryman is the historic home of the Grand Ole Opry, our country's longest running radio show.
Although they moved the Opry to a new theater east of town, most people really consider this its proper home. The folks who run it must have taken it a bit to heart. Now, the show moves back to the old and renovated Ryman each fall and winter.
Inside, we see a short video, see some exhibits of costumes and musical instruments, take a souvenir photo, and see the snow starting to fall outside.
Tim is not doing well in the cold. He has a thick jacket, gloves, and a hat but only a thin pair of pants as the bottom layer. Back to the hotel to warm up and, while he's doing that, I run over to a nearby sporting goods store to get him some long Johns, which help out quite a bit.
Now, it's back to the Ryman for the show. Tonight, we're attending the Grand Ole Opry with seats in the third row. It's one of three wheelchair spots on the bottom. There are a few more up in the balcony.
The show is great with eight acts doing three numbers each. John Conlee, Katie Armiger, Sundy Best, Riders in the Sky (there's Ranger Doug again!), Chris Janson, Bill Anderson, Marshall Chapman, and...the evening's headliner...Craig Morgan, who is celebrating five years as a member of the Opry tonight. Great show! First timers Sundy Best, a duo from Kentucky, brought the house down with their music earning them a standing ovation on their first try.
In the morning, a forty minute drive takes us to the far, western side of the city and the Loveless Cafe. Famous for their biscuits, everybody tells you that you cannot leave Nashville without trying it. Yes you can, actually.
The Loveless is really good, is home to another classic Nashville music show ("Music City Roots", taped each Wednesday night in the barn out back), and has great service. Food is good but not so good as to overcome the forty minute drive each way and the two hour wait once we got there.
If you can get in quick before all the tour buses hit, maybe it might be ok. Darryl Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick All Rights Reserved
NOTE: This is one of our occasional, VERY occasional posts on places that are huge tourist draws but manage not to suck at the same time.
It's synonymous with Country music. If there wasn't already a Country Music Hall of Fame, being a member here would count just as much. Everybody in the music business strives to play on this stage.
Now, the Grand Ole Opry show is enough of a draw but what makes it special is the winter version when it returns to its roots in downtown Nashville as opposed to the modern auditorium that's attached to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to the east, over the Cumberland River.
In the cold months, the Opry returns to its original home...the Ryman Auditorium, just a block north of Broadway in downtown Nashville.
The Ryman has its roots as a church so it's not a stretch to see why this is called the "mother church of Country Music." These are hallowed halls for many.
While there are standalone concerts at the Ryman throughout the year, it's the Opry that made it famous. The Opry is what people want to come to see.
The Opry is not the building, the Opry is a radio show put on before a live audience. It's old and has been on the air in pretty much the same format for over 90 years. That is the longest running radio show in the United States.
People come to be enterained by a half-dozen or so entertainers...some well known, others just starting to make their mark in the business. Entertainers come here because it is the most important stage they can play.
That formula right there...people thrilled for the chance to be here to see the show and entertainers who consider playing here the highest honor they can aspire to...is the main reason this place doesn't suck.
The pricing is moderate, the staff wonderfully friendly, as are your seatmates on the pews that make up the seating area for this place. The show is very entertaining and you'll wonder where the time went when you're done.
Wheelchair accessible seating is available at all levels and price points. Management also enforces that those seats only go to those who need it so someone won't sucker you out of those front row, prime spots.
Most people would say this is the biggest must-see attraction in Nashville. Most people are right. There is nothing bigger or better on the Nashville scene to brag about when you get back to your friends back home.
It's an easy drive on this Sunday although I think this route might be a tad crowded on a weekday rush hour. A pretty drive, not too long after we see the massive WSM transmission tower, we're exiting. Franklin, at least the downtown area, is one of those typical, cute little southern towns. Most of the regular businesses have been replaced by boutiques and restaurants so I guess you can say the area's been gentrified a bit.
55 South is the eatery we're headed to. After parking in a nearby structure, we're hit by the sledgehammer of cold as we exit. It may be bright and sunny but the thermometer is struggling to reach 30 degrees. Inside is warm, however, so we sit down in the trendy but homey restaurant.
Letty gets the shrimp and grits she's been craving on this trip.
Tim is trying the hot chicken that he's been waiting for.
And I'm going with the chicken and waffles. It's all delicious and I think I'm with Letty, the shrimp and grits is the best of three very good plates on the table.
After a quick little tour of the downtown area, we're too cold to walk much more. We turn to auto touring the nearby sites of the Battle of Franklin. In 1864, Union troops were on their way, slashing and burning, to Atlanta under General Sherman. Here in Franklin, the Confederate troops waged a pitched battle to stop them. It was a brutal and bloody affair. Union troops were eventually defeated but at a stunning cost to the Confederates. They lost over 6,000 killed, wounded, captured, or missing. The rebel army would never be the same. It was a turning point in the war.
Almost 1,500 of the Confederate dead are buried in this cemetery on a plantation in Carnton. A local family, the Carter's, had a house that ended up being in the center of the battle. The family hid in the basement while the war waged on above.
Today, the house still stands as a museum and you can count over one thousand bullet holes in it from that brutal day. Darryl Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick All Rights Reserved
After driving halfway across the state, we pull into our hotel...the Hyatt Place Opryland...just across the street from the massive, Gaylord Opryland hotel.
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We're feeling sick. I caught a cold in Tupelo and, despite my efforts, Letty and Tim caught it from me. A little taste of the town is in order so we head downtown. My first surprise is parking. The lots here do not advertise their rates on their signs. I find out why. A lot a block south of Broadway, after I pull in, park, unload Tim, and go to the kiosk to pay, turns out to be $25. We head to the Johnny Cash museum around the corner. It's nice to see. A $12 AAA discounted admission for each of us gets us in.
We see a lot of his suits and dresses worn by his wife, June Carter Cash. There are videos about his life, hand written lyrics, awards, and gold records. His favorite guitars and paintings done by the man in black.
And ending with the mixing board used by Cash and Rick Rubin to record the American series of albums at the end of his life while a video of "Hurt" plays nearby. I probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been sick but the place was crowded and cramped.
In fact, the whole city was crowded and cramped. Thousands had descended on Nashville because of the George Jones tribute concert that would be going on tonight at the Bridgestone Arena, up the street. Walking down Broadway, it was chilly and crowded. All the people and neon made the city live up to it's nickname of "Nash Vegas" due to it's resemblance to Las Vegas. I hate Las Vegas. The sickness, crowds, cold weather, and the fast draining hole in my wallet were wearing on me.
We ducked into Ernest Tubb's record shop to get out of the cold and browse the selections. I was beginning to think after four pretty wonderful days in Memphis that we might have made a mistake coming here for the bulk of our trip.
In the back of the store on a very small stage, an older gentleman on guitar with a younger woman singer started to play. I heard someone ask the store clerk, "is that Leon Rhodes?" The clerk assured him it was. Rhodes is a certifiable country star. He was Ernest Tubb's lead guitar player in the band The Texas Troubadors. The woman was Anita Stapleton, a much in demand backup singer here.
We stuck around to hear them play a few songs. In between songs, I snuck in with Tim to get the picture with the musicians you see above. After Letty took the picture, I feel a tap on my shoulder. Maybe Mr. Rhodes could feel my blue and depressed demeanor. When I turned around, he simply smiled at me,and stuck out his hand for a handshake. It was at that point that I felt everything would be ok. Welcome to Nashville. Darryl Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick All Rights Reserved
Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.
Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.
Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.
Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.
Here's Nashville, Tennessee...
Ryman Auditorium - Fully Accessible. There are wheelchair spots on the bottom level and in the balcony. The Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from here in fall and winter. It is a show not to be missed. Several parking lots are nearby with handicapped parking. If you park on Broadway or south of Broadway, know that you will be walking uphill to the Ryman and parking is expensive in downtown Nashville.
RCA Studio "B" Tour (included in an upgrade to the Hall of Fame admission) - Fully Accessible. Lift-equipped buses take you across town to Music Row to visit this wonderful and historic recording studio.
Ernest Tubbs Record Shop - Mostly Accessible. An extensive collection of CDs leads to a small stage in the back of the store where Nashville veterans sometimes play.
Gaylord Opryland - Fully Accessible. This immense hotel hides a large lagoon and atrium inside...several in fact...under acres of glass. It's a tourist attraction all in itself.
Loveless Cafe - Fully Accessible. Decent but not great food at this hugely popular cafe on the western outskirts of town. The biscuits are the big draw as are the weekly concerts out back on Wednesday nights. Darryl Copyrigh 2014 - Darryl Musick All Rights Reserved
The 600 pound gorilla in the Memphis, Tennessee tourist agenda is of course, The King. We've been on the Elvis Trail, starting with his birth in Tupelo, Mississippi; through to his breakthrough with Sam Phillips at Sun Studio; and now to where he lived and ended it all. Of course, we're talking about his home in south Memphis, Graceland.
Before we left, a friend of mine said he was in Memphis but passed on Graceland because of the cost. It is kind of breathtaking that, even with the AAA discount, it was $99 for the three of us but it really is a once in a lifetime thing, so we'll bite the bullet and take it in. Note: (prices have almost double...starting at $59 for adults before discount...since our trip - Ed)
We decided to "enhance" our experience even more by moving our last night to the Heartbreak Hotel, a themed lodging across the street adjacent to the visitor's center that is also owned by the same company. A king suite here was just a few dollars more than the Springhill Suites we were staying at the last few nights but the hotel was a bit run down and looked as it had not been renovated since Elvis' death. The lounge (The Jungle Room) was a bit pathetic and the food choices very uninspiring. On the plus side, they show Elvis movies 24/7 on the TV's here... (NOTE: The Heartbreak Hotel has since closed and been replaced with a new hotel, The Guesthouse at Graceland - Ed)
After check-in, we head over to the visitor's center, cash in the reservation we bought online, and head outside. We're across the street from the house so visitors board shuttle buses (which have wheelchair lifts and tie-downs) for the short trip across the street, though the famous music note gates, and up to the front door.
A quick spiel about the history of the house and then you're turned loose inside with your headphones and audio tour. This is always a bit of a pain in the butt for me because Tim can never quite punch in the right code for the proper part of the tour so I'm fixing his errors, trying to get my audio back to match his, and then continue with the tour. We get by.
You start in the foyer (which is directly under the spot where Elvis died upstairs but they don't tell you that on the tour) and view the living room with its fifteen foot long couch on the right.
Then, it's on to his parents bedroom down the hall, past the staircase (upstairs is strictly off limits), and into the dining room.
A large, dated kitchen is after that. Now, Tim gets to wait upstairs while Letty and I take turns to go down in the basement to see the rec room and bar. Tim watches a video of the same thing in the car port.
Next is the famous Jungle Room with a waterfall, animal skins and theme. It's basically a large family room.
Outside, you go past Lisa Marie's swingset and into the offices of Elvis Enterprises where his dad, Vernon, used to take care of the business side of things.
On the end of this building is an old smokehouse that was converted into a shooting range. Past the horse pasture is the trophy room where hundreds of gold and platinum records hang on the wall.
More exhibits about Elvis in the Army and his short marriage to Priscilla.
The last day of his life, he played raquetball in his own personal court where it has now been converted to a large display room showing more gold and platinum records plus a selection of the outfits he wore onstage. Outside, by the pool is the final stop on the tour which is also Elvis' final stop...the memorial garden.
Here, he rests eternally next to the graves of his mom, his dad, and his grandmother. Back on the shuttle, Letty comments that it was smaller than expected. Indeed, the house would just barely qualify as a mansion in some places but it was a different time with different expectations. It's back to the hotel after touring the planes and the gift shops before heading out for dinner. Dinner time and the pickin's are slim around Graceland. Instead, a better bet is to head back downtown for some Memphis barbecue. We're heading to Charles Vergo's Rendezvous. Walking by the Peabody Hotel, one of the city's homeless citizens asks where we're from and if we've had dinner yet.
We tell him we're going to the Rendezvous and he directs us to an alley half a block away. Indeed, this lonely alley is the entrance.
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Our Dinner at The Rendezvous
The restaurant is mostly downstairs with another room upstairs. Nothing is at the level of the entrance. Fortunately, the hostess sends Bob the busboy to escort us to a nearby elevator where we make the journey through the bowels of the restaurant to our table. While trying to decide between all the pork ribs, chicken, sausage and such, our server tells us they are having a special.
"You're here during Memphis Dine week. We have a special, two brisket dinners with beer for $20.13."
Sounds good. We order that plus a plate of pork ribs. The food is indeed special, especially the brisket. It's moist...which is the problem I have with most versions, they're too dry...and have a great smoky flavor.
I tell Bob I love them and he says he thinks the pork ribs are even better. They are very good, tender, and flavorful but I still have to give the edge to the brisket. One more night in the disappointing Heartbreak Hotel and our too short time in Memphis is over. In the morning, we'll be heading east on Interstate 40 towards "Music City," Nashville. We'll see you there. Darryl Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick All Rights Reserved